Meghan W

Posts Tagged ‘books’

Living in the Past

In history, Reading on June 8, 2016 at 3:44 pm

First off, I must apologize for my sporadic posts. I really don’t follow a set schedule or topic pattern, which means that I write when an idea hits me. I’ll be sitting in the living room and suddenly think of a topic, or I’ll be reading a book and a thought will cross my mind, and I’ll think “that would make an interesting post.” So since my last post nothing’s really hit me. My week has been really uneventful….as usual. I think it’s important to point out that I am so bored that even my brain can’t think of a blog post topic I could write to take up my time. (Okay, so this post has been in my drafts for four years. I’m not quite sure exactly when I began it. But I thought I’d finish it now!)

Tonight, however, I read 300 something pages of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, finally finishing it after starting it August of last year. Yes, a year ago. I’m never like that, I assure you. It’s just that it’s really hard to read in college! I don’t have any time for it, and so I had three books (One Day and two Gabaldon books) sitting on my adorable yellow Martha Stewart bookshelf in my dorm room all year long. For an avid reader, it made me very sad. But I finally finished it! Even though it’s really hard sometimes to start up on page 457 and expect to remember every little detail, character, and plot written in the previous pages.

This post will simply be a reflection of myself and my tastes in books and history (because I just thought of it and felt like writing about it).

Did any of you read Ann Rinaldi’s historical fiction novels when you were a teenager? I believe she published the majority of them in the 80’s and/0r 90’s, but I found the re-printed Harcourt collection at Barnes and Noble when I was in middle school. She wrote stories that centered on the Salem trials, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, among others. Young females were always the protagonist. Her books made a huge impression on me as a young person. She didn’t start my obsession with history; I’m convinced I was born with that. But she wrote about the topics I was totally in love with. I wrote an essay about Rinaldi’s novels for an English class and had it posted on the hall bulletin board for everyone to see (I felt awkward).

I believe every reader has an experience like that– where you you find an author or book and it either transforms you or enhances a specific characteristic in yourself. For my mother, it was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. For me, it was Ann Rinaldi (and I say it was her and not Jane Austen because early 19th century literature just didn’t affect me as a 14 year old as a contemporary Rinaldi book did…I’ll say it did later, and does, but not when I was 12, 13, 14).  In fact, her novels so made an impression on me that I found myself using antiquated terms spoken by the protagonists in her novels (I didn’t do it on purpose, I promise! At least my friends found it amusing and not creepy….thank goodness for small favors). I’ve never once looked up Rinaldi. I’m not quite sure if she’s still alive or not (is it odd I don’t want to know?). I did, however, print out nearly 100 pages of my mother’s nice printing paper with transcripts of the Salem witch trials for me to read through… I also kept a college-ruled notebook in which I painstakingly copied quotes or passages I found meaningful from Rinaldi’s books. Some of them, if they offered advice, I tried to apply in my own life (that’s sort of difficult for a young teenager, btw).

Anyway. As I was wrapping up An Echo in the Bone and verbally mourning the fact that I don’t have the next book in the series yet, I discovered just how acutely I was feeling for the characters and their present roles in the American Revolution. It’s one of my absolute favorite wars to study and so I naturally flock to any literature which takes place during that time (Rinaldi’s The Fifth of March was my favorite of hers. It takes place in Boston just before the official start of the Revolution). Picking up the Outlander series is like a veritable treasure chest of history since it spans the ’45 Jacobite Rising to the French Revolution to the American Revolution. Whoo!

But I realized tonight (and, sadly, not for the first time) that I longed for the chance to time travel backwards to those times I loved to study about in the present. I would think it’s every history major’s/lover’s dream to experience first hand the events or locations they study. I will be the first to admit it– I live in the past. I hold people accountable based on historic standards. A lot of my sense of morality comes from long established ways. I am in many ways a complete traditionalist, and that is because I live in the past.

It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Wishing so fervently for a chance to live in Charleston during the Revolution or Civil War will only break my heart in the end. I romanticize the past sometimes, and I know that is silly. I nearly attended graduate school to study the 18th-century British-Atlantic world so that I could force myself to fully understand the realities people lived through 300 years ago. Romanticizing and idealizing how people (strangers) lived is not only unfair to their realities but unfair to ourselves. No one should want to live in Charleston in the 18th and 19th centuries. The weather was hideous, life sucked if you weren’t wealthy and accepted in society, and there weren’t many opportunities for women (duh). Wearing pretty dresses would get old after the third day of forcing my stomach into a corset and placing the fourth layering of clothing on my sweating body before stepping out into Charleston’s sweltering, miserable heat (I live here, so I can say that).

Understanding the past allows us to place our own lives and experiences on a continuum. Once we grasp the economic forces that enabled 17th century Holland and its artists like Johannes Vermeer to establish the Dutch Golden Age of painting and trade; once we accept the sociology of post-war American architects who created new and startling architectural styles in houses and high rises as a way of coping with the effects of WWII; once we acknowledge the enormity of the decision for our great-great-grandparents to leave Ireland in the middle of the night with a note to their parents, jump on a ship, and travel the Atlantic to make a new life in New York City (my great-great-grandparents, if you haven’t picked up on that)–only then, do we appreciate our own place in time.

So, I loved Ann Rinaldi’s books as a teenager because I could fantasize living on a plantation in the midst of the Revolutionary War in Camden, South Carolina. Her books pushed me to study the war on my own time, reading chapters of textbooks we never got to in class and secreting away my mother’s research books to my room to memorize. Now, though, about a decade after first picking up one of her stories, I’ve graduated to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Her books are so detailed, descriptive, real, that they served as the perfect outlet for me to both fantasize and realize “life back then.” Until time travel really exists, it is only through extensive research and immersion into history that we can feel the past as tangible as the reality in front of us.

Have any of you had a meaningful experience with a book/author, whether you were young or old? What or who was it?

Agatha Christie’s Short Stories

In Reading on September 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

ImageSeveral weeks ago I had a strong hankering for a classic mystery novel. Naturally, the first image that came to mind was Sherlock Holmes. My parents insisted they have a book of the full SH collection, but after scouring all book shelves in the house I couldn’t find it. I did, however, find a book of 5 of Agatha Christie’s short stories.

Unlike the Sherlock Holmes stories, I was introduced to author Agatha Christie while in late elementary school by a sophisticated and worldly family friend. She lent me a gigantic book of several Christie novels. I loved them! Looking back, I probably didn’t understand most references in the stories, but even at my young age I was able to grasp the mystery element surrounded by English charm.

How many of you have read Christie’s stories? What do you think about them?

The book in our house had 5 stories: Peril at End House, The Murder at Hazelmoor, Easy to Kill, Ten Little Indians, and Evil Under the Sun. After nearly a month I’ve completed the first three and a half.

I’m actually quite surprised at how little I remember Christie’s stories and style. I can’t even be sure that I’ve read these stories before or not. However–I love them. I really do!

1) Peril at End House–I essentially disliked every character, especially the client of Poirot. Also, because this was the first Poirot story I’ve read in the past decade, I’m not sure if the narrator (the story is narrated in first person) is ever named.  I was unable to form a complete character profile of Poirot’s helper beside the two facts that he was both male and tall. Overall, though, I enjoyed the anonymity behind the narrator. It allowed me to focus more on the story he told and less on whether I liked him or not. In every other story by any other author, if I disliked the characters, I’d completely dislike the story/novel. With Christie, however, the setting, mystery, British flair, and her own syntax allowed me to enjoy the story immensely. A very enjoyable read!

2) The Murder at Hazelmoor– LOVED this one. I believe I owe that partially to the fact that I had just recently watched the 2002 version of Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. They both have simliar vibes due to the cold and isolated settings. The Murder at Hazelmoor was quite interesting to read. I felt myself drawn into the story. I wanted to be in that town during the blustery winter. I wanted to be at the seance at the beginning of the story. I couldn’t get a true read on Emily, so I cannot tell you if I liked her or not. I did, however, approve of her choice in the end. I was secretly proud of myself (or not too secretly since I’m now telling you) that I guessed the killer within the first several chapters!

3) Easy to Kill– I read this story while visiting Edisto Island, SC. The atmosphere affected how I read the story. Does that happen to anyone else? I’ll admit I was distracted while reading the story because I was interrupted so many times visiting old plantations and generally experiencing the local culture. Easy to Kill was a story in which I also guessed the killer early on. I mention this because I am not very good at doing that (I know, it’s kind of depressing considering my mother is an author, and I can rarely guess plot lines). But despite me suspecting, Christie developed a very comprehensive and believable suspect list with this one. Each character had motive for at least one of the murders. The setting was also lovely. I really enjoy how Christie really seems to understand the little tucked away British cottage-type towns; towns where everybody knows everybody, where gossip runs rampant among older matrons, and where the town is full of rich history. Yes, I know this particular town had a serial killer on its hands, but…if you look beyond all of that, the setting is really quite charming!

I won’t talk about Ten Little Indians because I’m not far enough in.

I believe everyone should start out reading Agatha Christie. She’s enormously talented. It’s why she is one of the best selling authors EVER! Her mysteries are unique. The plots are distinctly Christie, as is the settings and characters. Story series like Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are universally recognized and adored (despite Christie eventually becoming tired and annoyed of Poirot).I loved her books when I was 11 and I love them now. Her 66 novels and 15 short stories are timeless and because of that generations will be reading and enjoying them for many years to come.

The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake

In Reading on August 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

This morning I finished The Postmistress, a novel written by author Sarah Blake. Out of 5 stars, I would give it somewhere between a 2.5 and a 3.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it follows the lives of several people during World War II– primarily, the years 1940 and 1941. As in any war book, there are bound to be some chapters of sadness and others of redemption. Although there were scenes in which violence occured, it was less graphic than other war books I’ve read. This, to me, is both good and bad. The story is not primarily about the war, exactly. It’s mostly about the lives of people–Frankie Bard, Iris James, Emma Fitch, Will Fitch, and Henry Vale– during the war years. I enjoyed that aspect about it because they were still the same people before the war, but they could not ignore the changes and occurrences of their daily lives that happened in the early 1940s.

I also really enjoyed the trans-continental aspect of it. The stories take place in London and a small northern Massachusetts town, and they eventually intersected through various actions. I found it interesting because in London the Blitz is occurring when the story opens. However, back in the states, the war hasn’t even touched those people directly like that. Blake gave two very different perspectives which I found necessary to explain the feelings and actions of the characters.

I loved the U-boat angle to the novel. I wrote a report my freshman year in college about the U-boat plan to invade and attack America’s shores. I voluntarily read a 300 page documentary about it and then wrote an 18 page paper full of information that astounded me. Did you (even WWII buffs) have any idea that U-boats were so, so, so, close to our shores? They were at Cape Hatteras, they were only miles from New York. Assimilating the search for U-boats off Franklin, Massachusetts in the story was a great way of incorporating little known history.

Blake’s writing is descriptive with an underlying melancholia that echoes through the entire novel. Each of the main characters faces an internal and external problem, which are separate but in the end entangle within the other people’s problems. Blake’s story (or stories, really) dives into the issue of morality and self  preservation. Each character seeks a purpose in life and each fears he or she is slipping through the cracks. In these aspects the book was very relateable to me and I’m sure to many people who have experienced similar feelings.

However, the novel did present some negatives. For one, the postmistress was not (in my opinion) the protagonist. I believe Blake wished to portray Miss James as some sort of omniscient and all-powerful being in control of everyone in town and the other characters. However, I believe it is not Miss James but Frankie Bard who is the protagonist. I do not wish to give anything away for those who haven’t read it yet, but the ending itself proves that Frankie really is the all knowing and all powerful one. She, in a way, is very much like a postmistress.

Also, the love between Emma and Dr Fitch wasn’t very convincing. I was sure there was something underlying between their marriage, but I was unable to figure out what that was. Emma simply seemed a little one dimensional in comparison to the other characters, which was a shame since the plot definitely revolved around her.

I felt that Blake read Atonement, saw a postmistress walking around one day, and tried to find a way to connect those into a novel. Some of the plot felt too forced (I don’t want to go into detail for those who haven’t read the book yet), as if she saw a few dead ends and tried to correct them without completely succeeding.

Overall, this book was OK. I did enjoy the history/war aspect and that it focused more on the people than the war itself.

Summer Reading to 8/03/12

In List of Summer Reading, Reading on August 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm

A List of Reading I’ve Accomplished Thus Far–

note: all but 9 are old reads…I really can’t explain why I love re-reading novels so much, but I suspect any fellow reader can understand. I recently bought 3 more books at Barnes and Noble while attending a book-signing, but I will post them as I continue to read. Well versed readers should recognize most of the titles.

1. The Secret of the Old Clock– Carolyn Keene

2. The Hidden Staircase– Carolyn Keene

3. The Bungalow Mystery– Carolyn Keene

4. The Mystery of Lilac Inn– Carolyn Keene

5. The Secret of Shadow Ranch- Carolyn Keene

6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm– Carolyn Keene

7: The Clue in the Diary– Carolyn Keene

8: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter– Carolyn Keene

9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles– Carolyn Keene

10: Password to Larkspur Lane– Carolyn Keene

11: The Clue of the Broken Locket– Carolyn Keene

12: The Message in the Hollow Oak– Carolyn Keene

13: The Mystery of the Ivory Charm– Carolyn Keene

14: The Whispering Statue– Carolyn Keene

15: The Haunted Bridge– Carolyn Keene

16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time– Mark Haddon

17: The Clue of the Tapping Heels– Carolyn Keene

18. The Perks of Being Wallflower– Stephen Chbosky

19: Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk– Carolyn Keene

20. Tuesdays with Morrie– Mitch Albom

21: Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion– Carolyn Keene

22: The Quest of the Missing Map– Carolyn Keene

23: The Clue in the Jewel Box– Carolyn Keene

24: The Secret in the Old Attic– Carolyn Keene

25: The Clue in the Crumbling Wall– Carolyn Keene

26: Mystery of the Tolling Bell– Carolyn Keene

27. The Proposal– Mary Balogh

28. A Night Like This– Julia Quinn

29. What Happens in London– Julia Quinn

30. Just Like Heaven– Julia Quinn

31. The Duke and I– Julia Quinn

32. The Viscount Who Loved Me– Julia Quinn

33. An Offer From a Gentleman– Julia Quinn

34. Romancing Mister Bridgerton– Julia Quinn

35. To Sir Phillip, With Love– Julia Quinn

36. When He Was Wicked– Julia Quinn

37. Derby Day– D.J. Taylor

38. It’s In His Kiss– Julia Quinn

39. On the Way to the Wedding– Julia Quinn

40. The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever– Julia Quinn

41. The Lost Duke of Wyndham– Julia Quinn

42. The Winter Sea– Susanna Kearsley

43. An Echo in the Bone- Diana Gabaldon

44. The Postmistress– Sarah Blake

To read (so far) by end of summer: Incindiary– Chris Cleave, 1776- David McCullough

Reading is like my addiction. Once I start I cannot stop. I may take long breaks (it’s impossible to read for fun in college….) but I’ll always find a new read! As the end of summer draws closer it’s harder for me to read more. I think it’s because I’m too nervous and preoccupied thinking about Scotland. But I wanted to post this just to collect and organize all of the reading I’ve done this summer and to give you all a taste of what I’ve been reading. I really hope I’ll get to the last two, but if I’m not in the mood to read a depressing novel (Incindiary) or a lengthy documentary (1776) I won’t read it (yet). Feel free to comment or even recommend some others to sneak in before September!

How many novels have y’all read in one time period? I think this may be the most for me. How does it feel to read so much in such a short period of time? For me, it’s rather soothing and calming. It makes me think, too, about things other than me and my immediate surroundings.

Choosing a Fictional Character Over a Real Person

In Reading on July 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Yesterday I read an article in which the author talked about how she believed Fifty Shades was making its readers feel undervalued and disappointed in the real life guys surrounding them and their own personal love life. I found it a very interesting article, and I began to think. I realized after I thought about it for a while that I actually have a habit I do with each novel that features a love story. I get excited when I read the back cover, I find myself smiling at the book when the male hero does something exceptionally cute or romantic, I get a bit teary eyed at the big climax (the literary climax!), and then I feel sad when I finish the novel. I feel sad for that very reason– it’s finished. I found this pin on Pinterest a while ago from someecards.com and it made me laugh out loud with how true it is–

SO many fictional characters fit this description. Sigh.

I didn’t create this e-card, but really. I’ve caught myself saying that to myself or to my friends about certain characters. Just to name a few– Mr Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Edward Cullen, Jamie Fraser, Miles Dorrington, Harry Valentine, Robbie Turner, and Ned Nickerson. The first book I read with the aforementioned men was Pride and Prejudice, in 8th grade. I was such an awkward person (in both personality and looks), so much so that the most popular girl in our grade said to me in Sharing Time at the end of the year that she was astonished at how pretty I’d become since 5th grade. Gee…..thanks? So in 8th grade I wasn’t really thinking about boys in real life. I knew no one was crushing on me, and if I was crushing on somebody there was no absolute possible way EVER that he would crush on me back. Books were where I turned to discover and imagine other people’s more fortunate lives in the love department. Pride and Prejudice gave me that small glimmer of hope that maybe I could have a British gentleman fall in love with me, despite being too macabre, too moody, too jealous, too tall.

But is this a good thing? Here’s another e-card that made me both laugh and sober immediately–

Argh! Just the other day I had not one but two conversations with two close friends on how extremely selective we are where guys are concerned. It also just so happens that Mr Darcy is one of our personal heroes. And the thought has crossed my mind that I am SO selective over guys (I won’t even let guys dance with me at school…although, considering their idea of “dancing” is grinding, I’m really hoping many of you would not disagree with my decision) because of the fictional characters that I’ve read. I yearn for a guy who can tell me that I must allow him to tell me how much he admires and loves me. For the man who will secretly write me a love letter in which he says that I pierce his soul. I joked to my friends (but inside, I think I’m completely serious) that if I could find a guy who would just quote Coldplay lyrics at me (but mean them) is my perfect man. But nobody says these things. Men would probably think they’d be losing their masculinity if they began quoting Jane Austen. If they screamed that they couldn’t live their life without their soul, people would judge. Hardcore. I could easily say “whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” The problem is… I’m not sure he exists in real life. I really don’t. And yes, you could say I’m jaded, that I’ve read too much into these novels. I’m barely out of my teenage years and I haven’t really lived. And yes,

sometimes I do think of conversations with people based on a conversation in a book. And then I’m obviously disappointed when it never plays out.

But how wrong is it to hope that my life can turn out like Elizabeth Bennet’s, or Anne Elliot’s? I’ve been struggling with this question. Feel free to insert input, readers. When I feel lonely or sad I do the same exact thing—I tear through all of Julia Quinn’s novels in less than a week. But I don’t feel happy when I finish. I don’t feel sad, either. I feel a mixture that I could almost liken to hope. I keep my expectations low in life. I tell my parents that it means I’ll never be disappointed, and they respond that it means I’ll never accomplish anything great. But I am starting to think that if I keep on dismissing the thoughts of living the Darcy’s life in favor for being the spinster I tell my parents I’m turning out to be, it’s doing me more harm than good.

I made a short list of the pros and cons of reading and getting all emotional and passionate over love stories (I like making lists, if you couldn’t tell from my other posts…). This is what I’ve come up with:

Pros:

  • Hope—hope isn’t always defined as a bad thing. How would Gandhi have accomplished all that he did? Martin Luther King, Jr? Teachers? Now, some people surely have been disillusioned by their hope (Hitler, anyone?) but I’m not planning on starting a revolution and killing every man who thinks Darcy is stupid…ahem.
  • Happiness—living vicariously through characters’ lives does lift spirits. “The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry is my favorite short story (go read it if you haven’t. It’s so romantic). I always feel so happy after I’ve read it, and yes, I don’t go mope that I’ll never find a love like that, unless I’m in one of my moods. Stories normally are supposed to provoke a response, of course. But generally it’s reflected in the moods of the characters. Claire loves Jamie, therefore, I love Jamie too.
  • Variety—seeing the different types of people out there; different types of love, different types of personalities, different types of income levels/appearances/flaws. If Wentworth still loves Anne after 8 years despite her perceived lack of constancy, then maybe we can still be loved despite that awful habit we can’t kick! (although, if it has anything to do with taxidermy-ing  your dead cats, well…all the best of luck to you.)

Cons:

  • Unrealistic expectations—Why, surely my future love will compose a lullaby for me on his instrument of choice! But, I think it’s up to us to determine if we will let ourselves get carried away with a fictionalized story. Sure, I’d love someone to tell me that “when the day shall come, that we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.” But will I only search for guys who are guaranteed to say that to me? No. Because I know that’s a false expectation.
  • Unhappiness with relationships now—Guys most likely hated Edward Cullen from 2005-2008, and I frankly don’t blame them. The amount of bumper stickers, tweets, Facebook statuses, and conversations over a flippin’ vampire was a bit ridiculous (although, yes, I may have convinced 9 people in my high school to read them, and yes, one may have been my Latin teacher. No regrets!). I have a friend who admitted reading Fifty Shades made her current relationship feel a little inadequate. But I really don’t believe she intends on breaking up with her boyfriend, or make him act like Christian Grey (oh dear God). The feelings will pass.
  • Idealization of what you have to be like—More than once it’s crossed my mind between 8th grade and now that I should voice my witty opinions I normally keep to myself aloud, because that’s how Elizabeth Bennet caught Mr Darcy. I do realize now, however, that I’m not like fully like her. I’m quieter, shyer, more inclined to judge privately. If I start acting exactly like her, I may attract the guy who’s not the one for me.

As you can see, these lists are pretty divided. But I believe that in the end I can justify those cons and turn them into pros. Yes, Pride and Prejudice will always be my favorite novel and quite possibly my favorite love story. Yes, I would count myself the luckiest girl alive if I could find a real-life man like Mr Darcy. But if an average dressed guy approaches me in the coffee shop and doesn’t seem serial killer-eque, I won’t push him away. After all, what did Austen teach us about prejudices anyway?

I still have my standards. Confuse “your” with “you’re” one more time and you go down in my estimation. You don’t share my faith or my political affiliation? I’d get too upset at you for it to work. But if you don’t like dressing up in Regency England garb and watching Downton Abbey with me, I won’t dismiss you just yet. I’ll take after Elizabeth Bennet and Captain Wentworth and give you a chance.

And yes, the 2 friends of mine who think we have such high expectations base it off of fictional characters, and yes, my other friends who don’t read don’t share this belief. But I also have a friend who grabs at the TV when Ryan Gosling and the Notebook is on, and she’s a voracious reader who happens to be quite single going into her senior year. She’s happy, though. She fully believes the right guy is out there, and that she’ll find him. And guess what—he’s real.

So, I suppose all I can do–all we can do, really– is to hope that

Childhood and the Books that Influenced Me

In A History on July 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

Do you ever reminisce about the illustrated books and stories you read as a child? I sometimes think about it, and how they may have influenced me now through my tastes in life. My childhood was full of reading. I was a veritable bookworm, complete with a silver necklace given to me by my parents that had a worm wearing glasses. Yes. I know. I’m still surprised I had friends! Oh well. But I got to thinking today that I should record my favorite (not not so favorite) books that make me think of my childhood. If I ever start a family I’d love for my children to read these exact same books and share the memories I had. Let me know what you think!

Books that Influenced Me as a Child (I’ll stop at the age of around 11 or 12) Not in any particular order

  1. The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton- Oh, my. Who’s read this one? I think it was the first book I read about time travel and history and such. The part where she finds a scratch on her leg that was similiar to the one in her dream? I still remember that! My mother and I were supposed to read this together, but she decided playing Game Cube with my brother was more useful of her time. I read most of the series by myself but I never finished it, because I never forgave her, I think.
  2. Paperquake: A Puzzle by Kathryn Reiss- My 4th grade teacher actually had this on her bookshelf and during daily reading time this was the book I chose. For those who don’t know, it features past regression in San Francisco. So fascinating. I accidentally took it home and never gave it back to my teacher… (oops)
  3. Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd- I saw the movie first, which I remember better, but once again, I see a trend developing…time travel seemed to be one of my favorite topics as a kid. And time travel through an elevator? Cool!
  4. The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot- I mayyy have been a bit older than 11 when I read these, but I can’t remember for sure, and anyway, I don’t quite care! This series deals with a girl who sees ghost and happens to fall in love with one. The ending of the series was so romantic! Cabot, a champion writer for young adults, made me wish severely that I could see and speak to ghosts. Especially since my mother claims her grandmother and great grandmother frequently saw ghosts of passed loved ones. Hmm…
  5. Holes by Louis Sachar- I’ll say this with all honesty– I usually HATE reading books where a guy is the protagonist. I can’t help it! I simply can’t relate to them. And even though I can’t relate with being sent to a prison camp to dig holes all day, this book is universally liked by both boys and girls. Although casting Shia LeBeouf was cast as the main character, I got over it…sort of.
  6. Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss- Another past regression novel by Reiss, this one was a little bit older and was a bit scarier. I read this several years after Paperquake and this is definitely one of my favorites. Although I’m pretty sure my fear of drowning came from this book…..
  7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- such a sweet book! The part where their sister dies and the poem about her made me cry. I distinctly remember staying in bed all day one Saturday in 4th grade and reading it completely. When I told my friends on Monday they were all astonished. I was known as a fast reader back in the day.
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances H Burnett- Ok I actually really hate this book but it still made an impression on me. Terrifying. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of this. Does anybody actually like this book? Does anybody actually find it happy? Geez. So sad.
  9. Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene- Yeah, I’ve already written 3 posts about this so I don’t think I need to add anything. I’ll just say that these were my by far my favorite books growing up.
  10. Twin Spell by Janet Lunn- ahhh! Who’s read it?? Such an amazing book!! I actually wrote a short story probably in 3rd grade that was similiar to this. My mother read it when she was a girl and searched for years trying to find it (it’s out of print). It’s about twins who move into an old house with a doll and start having odd dreams about the past. It’s a great combination of spooky and eerie while still remaining young adult appropriate.
  11. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg- This is actually one of my least favorite books. I liked the sentiment, but I just remember feeling so sad about the whole bell ringing for only the ones who believe. Especially how the parents couldn’t hear it. It made me not want to grow up, which is somewhat the opposite of children’s storybook objectives.
  12. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle- awww, who doesn’t like Eric Carle books? I loved the illustrations. The story about the the cricket was also amazing. We still have all of them.
  13. Stellaluna by Janelle Cannon- another favorite. This was bought at the Scholastic Book Fair my school had twice a year. My brother bought Verdi, another by Cannon. My mother would read each of these to us every night. I’m not quite sure why I picked Stellaluna and my brother Verdi, but we each liked our own more.
  14. Bun Bun’s Birthday by Mercer Mayer- I get teary eyed just thinking about this book. This isn’t a very well known one. I’m not quite sure how I got it. I assume a relative gave it to me since I have a stuffed bunny named Bun Bun. The whole book makes me so sad until the end when I’m just a little bit less sad. In second grade I won a trip to the kindergarten class to read during story time and I picked this book.
  15. The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright- Who’s heard of Betty Ren Wright? She wrote these books before I was even born, but I found her entire collection at the library and would just re-rent them over and over again. I got into a dollhouse phase, not where I wanted one, but where I wanted to read every book with a dollhouse in them. Strange, right?
  16. The Ghosts of Mercy Manor by Betty Ren Wright- my favorite of her books. If you’ve read her but never this one, go do it now! I once recounted the plot to a neighboor who was maybe 4 years younger and her mother called the next day to tell me that her daughter had nightmares the entire night and couldn’t sleep because of the story I told her. Which was funny, really, because I was probably her age when I first read it. I promise I didn’t embellish or anything!
  17. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter- my grandmother has a set of china dishes from when my uncles and mother were young (50s and 60s) and they have the story line written and illustrated on each dish. It was one of my favorite parts about visiting the grandparents.
  18. Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel- these were written in the 70s and 80s, actually, but OMG did my mom, brother and I cry over laughing in this series. The wolf scene actually terrified me, but the ice cream cone on one of the amphibian’s head had be cracking up. How many of you have read at least one Frog and Toad book?
  19. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister- Seriously. Quite possibly the most beloved children’s book. And the illustrations were just beautiful, especially the shiny scale.
  20. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish- I actually remember to this day reading all of these in reading time in second grade. My teacher even baked us a lemon meringue pie (which I found absolutely horrifically disgusting) after the book in which Amelia bakes one. Every one of these books is so hilarious. Definitely a classic.
  21. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch- Have any of you heard of this? This one was lost in my memory for quite some time before it suddenly popped out after watching Tangled, of all things (I’m an adult, I promise…it was on HBO). It’s so adorable and cute!
  22. The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy- Ohhh, yes. A favorite story of my childhood (it was my mother’s too). It’s such a cute plot line and plays on every child’s fears of the librarian (mine was very nice, actually).
  23. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scienszka- read this in the school library over and over again with my friends. Who remembers this gem?
  24. The Mitten by Jan Brett- I can’t help but smile when I think of this book. It’s such a sweet story! Any child’s book involving animals is going to be a winner in my eyes. Brett’s book about the hedgehog actually inspired my second grade assistant teacher to buy a hedgehog as a pet and brought to class (although, now that I think of it, can you actually buy hedgehogs? Perhaps she found it in her backyard….)
  25. The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osbourne- My brother had to read these for school but I sometimes listened to him or my mother reading them. I’m glad I did, because I seem to be in the minority for people who have or haven’t read them. I love that they’re mystery novels. Somehow childhood mystery novels makes it seem to any person reading them that they can, in fact, solve their own mystery. And who doesn’t want that?
  26. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon- hehe. Has anybody read this? This was a personal favorite in my entire school for some reason. So silly.
  27. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams- Ok. I hate this book. Like, really hate it. But it did influence me. I literally couldn’t think of a worse fate ever than having my stuffed animal burned in a flaming pile but actually turning into real life. Because, in my mind when I was a child, my stuffed bunny will actually live forever (or as long as I live) while as the velveteen rabbit will die after a few years since bunnies don’t have exceptionally long life spans. And then the boy NEVER realizing that his stuffed bunny became real?? Who writes that sort of thing and calls it a children’s book!
  28. The Nutcracker- I read and read a copy of this from my local library where the girl’s name was Maria. I loved the way she had her hair half up and half down, and so I dubbed the hair style the “Maria hair-do” and

It’s quite possible I’m leaving a few out, but I’m aging…I can’t remember every great book in my childhood.

I think there’s something very amazing about sharing memories like these with other people. And isn’t it amazing how our own mothers and fathers could have read the very same books they read to us when we were little? Children’s books are essentially timeless. They can be passed down from one generation to another without ever losing their sparkle or charm. I like the idea of sharing my favorite stories growing up because some readers may find that we share similar memories, too, or favorite books. Are there any on here that you never read? How about ones you read that aren’t on my list?

Outlander: every girl loves a man in plaid

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

Last night I watched P.S. I Love You with Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. I watched it around a year ago and couldn’t believe how much I cried over it. I really dislike crying during movies. Especially when you’re alone. With food. But I was in a mood all day and when I saw it was on TV, I had to turn it on. And then I cried again. Especially when it plays Flogging Molly’s “If I Ever Leave This World Alive.” The lyrics are so beautiful. But it and the movie reminded me of Jamie Fraser and Claire from the Outlander series from Diana Gabaldon (if you haven’t read it or know much about it, you might not want to read any further because I may give some things away from the series, and you really don’t want me to do that…)

There’s a beautiful quote Jamie tells Claire in one of the novels in which he says, “when the day shall come, that we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

What a beautiful sentiment! I mean, come on. How more romantic could a person possibly get? And Jamie Fraser is also a Highlander, speaking in a Scottish brogue, while wearing various plaid clothing items. And strong hands. And an unrivaled heart. So, yeah, when I read that quote, I had to go write it down (I keep a journal of my favorite novel quotes) so I’d always remember it. And when I watched P.S. I Love You  tonight it made me think of him and the story.

So. Outlander. Who’s read it? Who hasn’t? (crazies.) Well, basically, if you need a refresher, Outlander concerns a Brit named Claire Randall who, during the 1940s, goes back in time to Scotland in the 1700s (I’m really not giving anything away, it says it on the back cover). I’m currently on An Echo in the Bone, and a part of me is slowly dying inside because I know as much as us Outlander fans want her to, Gabaldon cannot write the series forever. I mean, Claire and Jamie will have to die. Gabaldon will die, eventually (sorry, did I just get too morbid?). Trust me, I would love it if Jamie could suddenly become immortal and revert to his tweny-five year old self. But that won’t happen, and I have to face it. (WHY do some authors make us fall in love with their characters?? I know that makes them really good authors, but WHY? I want the Outlander series to live forever! Such is the life of a bookworm. Sad face.)

For the people who have read the series and loved it too, why do you think Jamie is such a likable character? Romance stories can be found anywhere, some bad and some good. But there’s something about Claire and Jamie’s that makes me pause every once in a while and think about how lucky and special they really are. The whole time travel aspect may have something to do with it. But only a little, I think! I know I’ve thought several times that if I could meet a real life Jamie (he doesn’t have to be a Highlander, I could survive if he was just a plain ole American….maybe…) I mustn’t let him get away. I think that the two of them are so perfect together, and their love really does transcend centuries. If Austen wrote in the 21st century, I wonder if Elizabeth and Darcy’s love would hold a flame to Claire and Jamie’s (and trust me, I’ve thought of this many times before, and how I’m practically betraying my favorite author in the whole world…I still love you Austen! I promise!)

Gabaldon writes scenes in which I am absolutely blown away at the emotion displayed in the scenes. Her scenes are so gritty at some times, and truly touching in others. They make her stories realistic. She is such a truly, truly talented author. Do I get a second? My mother’s had the good fortune to meet her several times and is always completely awed by her presence (I think it’s a little funny how there’s a hierarchy in the writer world). Honestly, if Gabaldon came out and professed that she knows so much about 18th century Scotland and such because she actually time traveled….I’d believe it. Seriously. Her writing is so descriptive, her images so colorful, that each book blows me away.

Isn’t it amazing how much a reader can feel for a fictional character? Such a cruel fate.

And, look, I’ll be honest. I’ve never been in love. And I don’t plan on being so in the near future. But I do know that if love ever tries to find me, I’ve got raised expectations from this series!

I’ve collected just a few of my favorite Outlander quotes (they’re from all of the series, not just the first book. And I cannot find them all because my journal is still packed away in all of my college belongings, and I know it would be fruitless to search for it now…I’ll probably find it when I’ve returned to my school in January, after the semester in St Andrews.)

“Blood of my blood,” he whispered, “and bone of my bone. You carry me within ye, Claire, and ye canna leave me now, no matter what happens. You are mine, always, if ye will it or no, if ye want me or nay. Mine, and I wilna let ye go.”

“Oh, aye, Sassenach. I am your master . . . and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.”

“Ye werena the first lass I kissed. But I swear you’ll be the last.”

“You’re tearin’ my guts out, Claire.”

“I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.”

“Oh, Claire, ye do break my heart wi’ loving you.”

“Scots have long memories, and they’re not the most forgiving of people.”

“Hodie mihi cras tibi, said the inscription. Sic transit gloria mundi. My turn today, yours tomorrow. And thus passes away the glory of the world.”

 

Word of the Day: Soul— The spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part. The spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, auras believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul. The disembodied spirit of a deceased person. The emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments. A human being; person. (source: Dictionary.com)

Espionage During the Napoleonic Wars and Lauren Willig

In A History on June 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

First of all, readers, I must apologize for the week I let pass between this blog and the last. My stupid laptop (and it is stupid, I’m not just saying that out of the immense frustration I feel towards it) had to be sent in, and even though there are three computers in the house (not including four (well, 3 for now) laptops and two iPads), it is hard to switch to a different format than I’m used to. I received an email this morning that it is being shipped, so hopefully I’ll like it better this time around!

During this short interim, I have read several more books, the most recent being The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. I am nearly certain it is the 8th in the series. I very much enjoyed it. Not as much as the first two, but more than the previous three. I believe my reservations concerning her latest books in the series is that they do not take place in England, and they do not concern the original characters minus Miss Jane Wooliston. I originaly picked up the series because it was set in England. I am such an anglophile, and since I love history so much, I found the stories fascinating. Are any of you well researched on the Napoleonic Wars? Neither was I, before I read them. In fact, I really wasn’t quite sure what they were about. I originally thought it as simply about bringing Napoleon down, but that’s only the surface of it. After I was nearing the end of her most recent novel, I thought about the war, and how much information I do not know. I decided, therefore, to do some research. I always think that if someone is going to read a novel, he or she should really become familiar with the topic. I’m not suggesting one orders a dozen books, all in hardback and the size of a large laptop, and highlights each page of information. I simply mean that a quick summary of the topic will suffice. How stupid would it be for one to read a book about the Crimean War or botany and have no idea what is going on? It is a readers’ duty to figure that out, in my opinion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series is one of my favorites. The first two are my absolute favorite, the third is also a favorite, and then my favoritism sort of dies down….the latest book in the series was published in February, and I couldn’t bring myself to read it until this month (and I was pleasantly surprised, thankfully). It’s not because Willig isn’t a superb writer. She is. A story even better than romance taken place in early 1800s England is a love story in early 1800s England that involves espionage and counterespionage. Seriously, it’s something that can make my blood running. The first novel (mentioned above) starts out the series by laying the foundation of a collection of special spies whose special cover names involve flowers (Pink Carnation, Blood Lilly, Black Tulip, Orchid, Crimson Rose, Night Jasmine, emerald ring…oh wait, that’s not a flower. Why is that a title in her series? Hmm.)

 

Anyway. The men are dashing, intelligent, witty, seductive, romantic, silly, outrageous, and swoon-worthy. The females are just about the same, but in female-related terms. Even though I openly wish I lived during the Napoleonic Wars (or the Revolutionary Wars in both America and France….) in England, I have never fully researched the Napoleonic Wars, such as what it entailed, why it began, how it ended, and of course….the spying that occured during the war.

Espionage was a given. The Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1797-1815, was a major war that involved a ton of countries other than the countries of Great Britain and…France (of course). Even Sweden was somehow involved! Switzerland was a breeding ground of counterespionage, and one of the most famous British spies, William Wickham, conducted most of his work there. Compared to other wars before this period, the Napoleonic Wars saw a high increase in espionage.

Espionage. Isn’t it such a great word? Esssssssspioonnnaaaaaggggeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Anyway, I found relatively little online. I spent a lot of time researching, looking for book excerpts, anything, really, that would account for all of the exceptional information Willig knows. I found one academic book that’s conveniently titled Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792-1815 by Elizabeth Sparrow. I am debating ordering it, but it is certainly not light reading one generally spends in the summer. No online excerpts were available so I really couldn’t read even the Index. I’m really quite curious where Willig receives her knowledge for writing a book. My own mother orders dozens upon dozens of books, highlights them and stickies them before she writes the first sentence. I can only imagine how much research Willig had to do to be able to write this series.

I suppose, when writing a spy novel, much of it is left to the writer’s interpretation. Not everything is going to be laid out, like “Oh, this is how one spies on one another,” or “this is a how to guide on wearing a black mask and cape and sneaking through a window.” Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

So, I found simply outlines on the wars and skirmishes that involved Napoleon and more about his side of the espionage world. I would encourage all of you, especially ones who have read Willig, to do your own research. It’s really quite fascinating.

And if you haven’t yet read the series, I do encourage you. Perhaps you will like books 4-7 more than  I did!

Word of the Day: Discombobulated: (n.) confused (v.) to confused, frustrate, or or upset.     (Isn’t a spy’s dream to discombobulate his or her opponent? And then oust said opponent, I suppose.)

P.S. The Napoleonic Wars were sparked by the French Revolution (1789). France’s power rose dramatically from 1803 till about 1812, when Napoleon famously invaded Russia in the middle of winter (really?? Who ever thinks that’s a good idea??) and nearly succeeded killing every French soldier there. Finally, however, the Bourbon monarchy was finally restored after his defeat.

The wars resulted in several major outcomes– any semblance of the Holy Roman Empire was destryed, Spain became less powerful, and the British Empire became the most powerful in the world.

As I am sure most of you know, Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo (Waterloo! Couldn’t escape if I wanted too…Waterloo! Knowing my fate is to be with you…) on June 18, 1815 by the Duke of Wellington.

Elizabeth Bennet and Lisbeth Salander Walk into a Room: What Happens Next?

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Currently I have not finished the book I’ve been reading for a few days. It’s terrible. The book and how long it’s taken me to read it. The book, if you must know, is Derby Day by D.J. Taylor. It was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, so naturally I believed it would be an enjoyable read. It’s not. I detest reading books where every character is immensely unlikeable, and I really dislike essentially every character. I am an avid horseback rider and even compete with my university team, but seriously, this book is NOT about Derby Day. I’m halfway through and it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m pretty sure the actual event doesn’t occur until nearly the end. So, I suppose that instead of not posting for a few days (because I promise, even if I don’t like the book, I’ll do SOMETHING with it), I’ll talk about something else having to do with reading, and a topic I would love to talk about.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if a character in one book met a character from another book? Am I the only one? (please say no.)

Here’s a list of characters meeting characters from other novels that I’ve come up with:

  • Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) and Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina)
  • Claire Abshire (The Time Traveler’s Wife) and Claire Randall Fraser (Outlander)
  • Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) and Emma Woodhouse (Emma)
  • Dexter Mayhew (One Day) and Robbie Turner (Atonement)
  • Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) and Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights)
  • Noah Calhoun (The Notebook) and Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)
  • Cecelia Tallis (Atonement) and Tess Durberville (Tess of the D’Urbervilles)

What do you think? Should I add any other characters you think would have an interesting dynamic?

I’ll explain why I chose each pairing. (some of them can only be written if I give away key aspects of the books, so just watch out when I alert you to **spoiler alerts**)

1- Elizabeth Bennet and Lisbeth Salander- First of all, P and P is my most absolute favorite novel of all time. Dragon Tattoo is not. In fact, I hated it. Strongly.  I felt like I had to go cleanse myself after reading it. I just felt dirty and gross, and I really really needed to get out of Lisbeth’s head. That girl has some serious issues going on! For those who have read it, the scene where she enacts her revenge that stemmed from that thing that happened (you all know what I’m talking about…maybe) scarred me. Ew. So, if Lizzy met Lisbeth, I think she’d dislike her. That’s not just because I dislike her. I believe that although Elizabeth certainly tried to wash away common societal norms (like marrying within one’s class), I don’t think she’d appreciate Lisbeth’s surly, depressive, and unhappy attitude. Elizabeth would probably try to encourage Lisbeth to act with a more sunny disposition and to open up more, but eventually she’d back off because she would realize it was hopeless and that it really wasn’t her place to begin with. Lisbeth, on the other hand, would be bored by Elizabeth, although she may admire Elizabeth’s tenacity and strong character.

2-Scarlett O’Hara and Anna Karenina (**spoiler alert…don’t read this if you don’t want the ending of Anna Karenina to be revealed yet)**- personally, I think this is the most dynamic duo of the bunch. For those who have read both novels, these two women are full of drama. They thrive on it. If the two of them were in a room together, the electricity between the two would be quite forceful. This is how I believe it would first play out: Scarlett would size Anna up, and vice versa. Each would think their lives are better than the other. Then, Anna meets Vronsky and begins the affair. If Scarlett knew, first she would envy Anna. One, because S would believe that A is blissfully happy, and that that happiness would last forever. S would envy A’s ability to grab and successfully obtain what she wants. Secretly, S would loathe herself for not doing with Ashleigh what A’s doing with Vronsky (although Scarlett wouldn’t yet realize it’s because her moral compass is more align than Anna’s is, and S loves Melanie too much to break up a marriage). Scarlett would begin plotting how she could do the same, and if she would be as happy as Anna. Eventually, Anna’s happiness lessens. She becomes paranoid, clingy, and desperate. Scarlett begins to feel supercilious. Then, as Anna’s downfall spirals even further and she’s shunned from society while Vronsky can still do whatever he wants, Scarlett will begin to feel that she did the right thing in not forcing herself on Ashleigh to the point where they’d commit adultery. She’ll feel especially thankful when Melanie dies, because she never desecrated her only friend. Anna’s suicide would convince S that S did the right thing, and that she is stronger, has more character, and better moral judgement than A ever had.

3- Claire Abshire and Claire Randall Fraser- For those not familiar with these people (shame on you! just teasing. But really. Life altering novels.): Claire 1 deals with a husband who time travels with hardly any warning. Claire 2 herself is a time traveler, although she can’t do it as often as Claire 1’s husband or she’d kill herself. I believe pairing a non time traveler with a time traveler who are both familiar with each side would be interesting, especially since they’re both from “modern times” (both from the 20th century, early and late), but one lives in the past. Each faces her own battles dealing with time travel. Claire 1 feels frustrated that her husband always leaves her, even at the most inopportune times, and she never knows where he is until he comes back (one of my favorite lines from the book- “I won’t ever leave you, even though you’re always leaving me“. Tear jerker). Claire 2, on the other hand, has to deal with knowing too much information. And although her husband (Jamie Fraser…yum) respects and supports her, she realizes that he can feel frustrated sometimes with his “lack” of knowledge, which makes him feel inferior (and you  really don’t want to make an 18th century male Scottish highlander feel inferior). Both Claires can bond over the fact that their lives are inexplicably different from everyone else’s. Claire 1 can take comfort in knowing that if Claire 2 can live in the past she wasn’t born into and survive, then Claire 1’s husband could be okay wherever he travels to, even if he’s alone.

4- Hermione Granger and Emma Woodhouse- I’m really quite sure everyone is familiar with Harry Potter, even if you haven’t read them. Emma is a pretty straightforward novel, so I don’t feel the need to put spoiler alert on here. I chose the two of them  because I believe they’re very similar. Emma, for example, likes to get in everybody’s business through match-making. She does a rather horrible job of it, but she won’t let anyone tell her differently. She’s a bit stubborn. If she and Hermione paired off, they’d do great together until they disagree on something, and then their stubborn attitudes would bring about their downfall unless they listen to the people around them. Can you imagine? Emma would think Mr So and So should definitely marry Miss So and So, but Hermione would then say that Mr So and So should most certainly NOT marry Miss So and So because SHE is a horrid toad (or something to that effect). Hermione and Emma would be charming together, when one looks past their stubborn personalities. Emma would most likely end up setting her up with Harry (and we all know that wouldn’t be a good idea).

5- Dexter Mayhew and Robbie Turner (**spoiler alert** for both of the endings)- I absolutely adore both of these tragic love stories. ADORE. I would go for Robbie over Dex, but they both have a certain quality to them– a bit mysterious, a bit brooding, self-confident– that I’m quite attracted to. I can’t quite figure out, though, whose story is most tragic (from birth till death). What do you think? Dexter spends most of his life aimlessly living life, not accomplishing anything and disappointing nearly everyone closest to him. He wastes too much time not realizing his perfect girl has been there the entire time, and when he finally does, she dies. Tragically. They have very few perfect years together. Perhaps they would have had more if Dex hadn’t been so oblivious and hadn’t changed so much. Robbie, though, has a hard life from the begining, although it’s not as depressingly self indulgent as Dex’s. Robbie has a generally good job working at the Tallis’s home. He pines for the daughter of the house (Cecelia) and finally has one night of passion. But is one night enough? Would it have been better if he never knew what could be and lived contentedly, or was it better that he knew even if it lasted only once, and he could never, ever, repeat it. I think it may almost have been worse for Robbie than Dex (romantically) because Robbie was ripped from his true love. He knew she was The One, but he was cruelly barred from ever seeing her. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s thrown into a war where he can never advance because he’s a convict, and where he dies mere days before being rescued. He never learned what became of Cecelia. He never knew the perfect ending Cecelia’s sister created for them through words only. Perhaps one consolation with Robbie’s luck is that soon Cecelia dies, so they meet up in the afterlife sooner than Dex and Emma can. Poor Dex has to deal with his demons for years before finally coming to terms with Emma’s death, and finally, finally dying at however old he makes it to be. So, I suppose they both face really bad luck. They also have really good chances with fate, but both have been touched by Death. But beautiful nonetheless. I think they’d hit it off if they ever met, before or after their tragedies. Their personalities would balance each other out, don’t you think?

6- Jane Eyre and Catherine Earnshaw– again, I feel like most people are familiar with their stories, so I’m not putting spoiler alert. Jane Eyre is a great deal less crazy than Catherine. Poor Catherine was driven crazy by the harsh landscape of northern England, lack of neighbors and company, and even more lack of suitable people to fall in love with. Although Jane’s life is certainly touched by sadness, she encounters shelter in Thornfield Hall, if spurned only by the crazy woman living upstairs who’s life vendetta is to kill everyone. But really, if Jane met Catherine, she’d probably face her just as she faced Bertha. Although she handle it better, by not running away. In fact, Jane might offer some solace to Catherine and help her through C’s difficult life. I’m not sure if Catherine would come out differently knowing Jane. She’d still die, I suppose. But would she die happier? More content? I don’t think so. I do, however, think Jane would come out stronger meeting Catherine– and who knows, perhaps if she met Catherine before attending Thornfield Hall, she’d face Bertha and kill her herself!

7- Noah Calhoun and Marianne Dashwood– you all better be familiar with The Notebook! I must say, I hated the written story. I absolutely adore the movie, but the book was simply awful. But the character remained the same with both book and film so I think it’s still okay to write about him. I put these two characters together because they’re both such romantic people who are very in touch with their emotions. They may not suit each other romantically, but I do think they’d admire each other. For one, Marianne appreciates a person who can express himself, who doesn’t keep things bottled up inside. She’d most likely become infatuated with him, adoring his love of Whitman and his shyness at his early stutter. A move like restoring an entire house simply for the one he loves would likely send Marianne to her knees. And while she’d eventually realize they were unsuitable, she would most likely be looking for someone to fill Noah’s heart; say, a girl named Allie, perhaps? Noah might actually think Marianne silly sometimes, but maybe only because of her young age. He, though, would appreciate Marianne’s decision to deal with thins outright and her willingness to throw everything away for one man.

8- Cecelia Tallis and Tess Durberville– (**spoiler alert for Tess**) Tess of the D’Urbervilles had me crying so much, especially the end. So did Atonement. Both of these girls face extreme loss in their lives. I think we can all agree, though, that Tess had it much, much harder. Cecelia led a charmed life, at least up until WWII, but Tess was born into a poor family in the English countryside with a drunk father who can’t make money. Tess tries so very hard to improve her life and eventually finds love, even if it doesn’t last. Both girls, however, shared some form of true happiness in their lives. And even if their romance lasted of only a night or so, they still had it. Both lives end tragically, but was it a blessing? Could they have continued to live? Cecelia faced the tragic loss of Robbie, but Tess just had so much loss and sadness bottled up in her life; would Angel had been able to truly make her happy forever? If these two women were placed in a room with each other, the sadness would be suffocating.

Julia Quinn: Wit, Dishabille, and Mad Barons

In Julia Quinn, List of Summer Reading on June 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm

typical morning dress and walking costume (1815)

As I sit here typing this post, I’m currently sipping English Afternoon Tea in my I ❤ Mr Darcy mug (I promise you, I’m not that cheesy in real life. According to me). There’s really nothing quite like a cup of black, English tea. Nothing. …Well, maybe it’d be a bit better if my future British aristocratic titled husband were sitting next to me, dressed in 19th century gentleman’s garb… But anyway. Back to Julia Quinn.

I believe my favorite novel of hers is What Happens in London. This is for several reasons: Firstly, Olivia Bevelstoke is an incredibly likeable protagonist, and it may have something to do with her sense of humor (for me, at least). Secondly, Sir Harry Valentine is such a romantic name. Harry. Valentine. See what I mean? I’ve always loved the name Harry, regardless of the fact that a devilishly handsome red head who happens to be royal and unmarried also possesses the same name. Harry (The character, not the real person) also works for the War Office, which has always intrigued me. Have you ever read any of Lauren Willig’s books? The Pink Carnation series features tons of guys working for the espionage section of the War Office, and even though Sir Harry translates documents, I still find it fascinating.

(Sidenote: The British War Office was in operation from the 17th century to the mid 20th century. It administered the British Army, and therefore was a very important part of British foreign and domestic policy. The Department’s building–where Sir Harry would have gone when he was summoned– was located at Horse Guards in Whitehall from the early 18th century to the mid 19th century. It became less important after the First World War and especially after Winston Churchill became PM, where he bypassed the War Office completely. Bummer. I’m looking at pictures of the War Office building– and I really do hope it’s the right building I’m looking at– and it’s certainly an impressive structure. It seems very Palladian in style, which I’m a big fan of. I should also point out that I’m an Art History minor, so I’d like to think I got the architectural style correct, but if you are reading this and are more authoritative on the matter, please correct me if I’m misinformed.)

Another reason why I’m so enthralled with What Happens in London is because it has more substance than Quinn’s other novels. I don’t presume to say that her other novels are simply full of fluff (because they really aren’t), but the whole espionage aspect of it, the adorable and sometimes frightening misunderstandings, coupled with a sort of kidnapping, makes it much more intriguing. That, and it’s also her funniest novel (to me, at least). I found myself laughing alone in a room, and more than once I was questioned as to what was so funny.

I loved that Quinn also had the plot of another book within hers– Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron (do you get my title now?), and how it propelled the main plot along. The best part of being an author, I believe, is having the freedom to transfer one aspect of a novel into several different novels. Miss Butterworth, for example, appears in one or two of  Quinn’s other novels. I really want to question Quinn on how she came up with that book. I mean, really. It’s a stroke of genius. For those who are familiar with what I’m talking about, don’t you wish it could be a real book? Or if Quinn could actually write and publish it? It would sell so well!! For goodness sakes, it pokes fun at lurid Gothic novels just about as well as Jane Austen does in Northanger Abbey and even Sense and Sensibility, to a degree (I’m referring to Marianne’s tendency to be more than what is considered decorous in her expressing of emotions). I do not wish to give too much away from it, because it’s truly a work of art, but let’s just say that being pecked to death has never been so enjoyable to read about until now (and I’m not giving away who does the pecking or to whom it is directed–read it for yourselves!). This book also gives hope to having a novel be a direct implement in having two people fall in love with each other. And really, what reader wouldn’t want that?

I gave the title to my post because those three aspects characterize her novels. Wit, because Quinn’s dialogue is quite witty. You can’t read one of her novels without laughing. The dialogue between the characters is so bitingly witty sometimes that I tuck them in my head, in case the need should ever arise for me to use something as good as what Quinn writes in her novels. Secondly, all of her heroines find themselves in some case of dishabille, so I felt that was appropriate. And I put Mad Barons becuase it’s in the title of the aforementioned book. Also, I know Quinn meant “mad” as in “insane,” but I also use it here because all of the men (and they usually possess a title) become angry at some time, the heroines calls them “quite insane,” and they do actions that other people would quality as the 19th century definition of “mad,” although we know it’s because of love.

I do have to ask though—if you do read Julia Quinn’s novels, do you ever feel a bit embarrassed reading them in public? Personally, I used to giggle at the stupid covers of romance novels—you know, the ones featuring a demi-god with his cravat askew and his shirt bursting open, his dark, luscious locks flowing in the wind as if there’s no tomorrow. And then, as if that gets any better, the girl beside him looks like a common trollop (using antiquated terms, sorry not sorry).  She’s generally barefoot, her hair is down (come on, no self-respecting girl in the 19th century or earlier would ever be caught with her hair completely down unless she was inside and in her bedroom—or his, I suppose if we’re to be fair). Anyway, so her hair’s down and weirdly blowing in the opposite direction as the Fabio look-a-like, and her dress is in a state of dishabille. I don’t look at books like these and think, oooh, that’s going to be a good one. No, I look at it and I think, oh, COME on! Doesn’t the author have any self respect for the work of art she has produced? And it’s painful to admit, but I would never have read Juila Quinn’s novels if I hadn’t raided my mother’s bookshelves and trusted in her judgment that she wouldn’t read a book like this if it wasn’t any good. I’m only happy to say that Julia Quinn’s novels aren’t stupid, and I do not think the covers reflect the books in any possible way. I give exception to her books where the front cover consists of the title and then a shoe, or a necklace, or a book with a hand, such as The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. But, alas, you open to the second page which features a step-back (a second cover), and AHH! There’s another trollop getting seduced, once again, by Fabio’s brother! I know publishing companies think that having a half dressed man on the cover will entice women to buy the book, but it does the exact opposite with me! What about you, readers? Are you more inclined to pick up a book with that type of cover or no? Would you be caught reading it at a Starbucks, or do you only pick it up when at home? Do answer, please. I’m quite curious.

And I just want to reiterate again that I greatly respect Julia Quinn, and I don’t mean to insult her by insulting her covers. She most likely had little to do with choosing the cover (most authors don’t…some do get the luxury of giving some feedback, but it’s not always heeded). I believe Julia Quinn possesses great talent. Her novels are always unique, her characters are fully developed and not one dimensional, and she does a great job of unfolding and resolving plots. I’ve read several other authors who write similar books that also take place in the ton during the early 1800s, and I find Quinn’s more enjoyable than theirs. Do let me know, readers, if you’ve found an author similar to Quinn whom you like just as or more than her.

Word of the Day: Cravat– a cloth, often made of or trimmed with lace, worn about the neck by men especially in the 17th century. A scarf of silk or fine wool, worn round the neck, especially by men (Source: Dictionary.com)

 
 Ah, dangit! I was so engrossed in writing this blog that I only finished half of my tea! This never happens! Oh well. That must be a good thing, right?